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May 25, 2004

Small-Time Cooks

At the end of a long week, one of my pals in the cooking industry had a dinner party. He made some of his favorite recipes that his friends showed him how to make, and Maria and I pitched in with a couple of dishes. Here are some of our favorites from that night.

These first three recipes all serve many.

Hannah's Apple and Blue Cheese Salad

2 heads Romaine lettuce

2 cups crushed walnuts

6 ounces blue cheese

1 Granny Smith apple

Dressing:

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 Tablespoon sugar

dash of salt and pepper

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Wash the lettuce and tear it into bite-size pieces. Cut the apple into bite-size pieces as well. Mix the lettuce and apple together with the walnuts. Mix the dressing with a whisk or in a food processor to combine the lemon juice and oil, and toss them into the salad. Serve with the blue cheese on the side.

Jessica's Croissant Bread Pudding

6 croissants

9 eggs

5 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 cup raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

It is best if the croissants are stale, or you can put them in the oven to make them crispy. Slice in half across, and line the bottom of a deep baking pan with half of the croissant halves. Top with the raisins and then the other croissant halves. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, cream, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the mixture over the croissants and let sit for 15 minutes. If necessary, cover the pan to make sure the croissants stay submerged in the liquid. In order to keep the temperature even, it is best to submerge the baking pan in a water bath. Just fill a larger pan with an inch of hot water and place the pan with the croissants inside, being careful not to get water in the croissant pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour. The dish is done when the bread pudding is puffed up and the top is golden brown. Let cool and serve.

Dan and Ti's Goat Cheese Pasta Salad

6 cups cooked macaroni pasta

4 Roma tomatoes

6-inch rosemary stem

4 Tablespoons chopped basil

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and fresh pepper to taste

8 ounces soft goat cheese

Seed and dice the tomatoes, and mince the rosemary and basil leaves. In a large bowl, combine the tomato, basil, rosemary, and olive oil. Add the cooked macaroni to the bowl while still hot. Stir in the goat cheese until it all melts, creating a nice creamy texture. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add goat cheese to taste.

Espresso-Banana-Cocoa custard

Serves 2-3

2 Tablespoons banana

1 1/2 Tablespoons cocoa

2 Tablespoons espresso

1/4 cup cream

1 1/2 egg yolks

2 Tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

With a fork, mash the banana as best you can until smooth. Add in the cocoa and espresso and mix together well. In a saucepan, heat the cream over medium low heat until boiling. Meanwhile, mix the egg yolks into the banana mixture and stir in the sugar and vanilla. With a whisk or fork, keep mixing the banana mixture while pouring in a slow stream of the hot cream. Pour into two or three ramekins or small 4 oz. cups, and set cups into a hot water bath (a pan with a half inch of hot water). Bake at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until the edges are set but the center is still jiggly. Cool and chill for a few hours before serving.

This recipe becomes a creme brulee if you do the sugar crust on top. However, this custard is best served cold, and (lacking a blow-torch) it is difficult to melt the sugar into the crust without heating up the custard.